Perhaps a topic on what the methods of Historical Science really are:
The Past is the Key to the present.
The Present is the Key to the past.
The Past and the Present are the Keys to the future
Three very simple, very easy to understand concepts that were developed initially during the Scottish Enlightenment but perhaps their very simplicity and clarity conceals the power and importance inherent.
If we look at an old object and compare that to many new objects we will find greater similarities between the old object and those new objects produced by a particular combination of known physical processes, procedures, mechanisms, methods or models. It then is reasonable to tentatively assume the older object was created by those specific physical processes, procedures, mechanisms, methods or models. As we examine more and more old objects and find the same patterns repeating our confidence that we made a correct conclusion grows.
From those observations it is the reasonable to assume that for any particular combination of known physical processes, procedures, mechanisms, methods or models we should see the same sort of object or artifact produced in the future. Once again, as the number of such observations grow the confidence in the outcome increases.
Far from being some attempt to mystify the subject or confuse the public, the methods of Historical Science are created and designed to demystify both the past and future.
Another method used by Historical Science, particularly in geology, paleontology & archeology, that is designed to demystify the process is Superposition. It simply says that if there is a series of layers of some substance the bottom layers were put down before the top layers unless there are clear signs that the order was later changed.
This does not say that the material of an upper layer must be younger than a lower layer, just that the layer itself will be younger. That has to be true if you stop to think about it. Erosion and weathering combined with gravity and air or water transportation will remove really old material from high spots and carry it down to put on top of what may well be much younger material.
As we dig a hole we are moving back in time, usually only very short periods of time but often tens of thousands of years.
Often we find samples of rocks that have bits and pieces of other rocks of different types inside them. The pieces parts that are included in the larger sample must have existed before the larger sample was created.
An observation sometimes made is the the pieces parts are sometimes the remnants of once living things so the once living things existed before the larger object was created.
An Intrusion is a new object that is found in an older object; the intrusion must be newer than the original object. Examples would include lava or magma burning through an object. The intrusion will usually have a different composition than the original object and will often also change the properties of the older material in immediate contact with the intruding material.
observed processes tell us more than hypothetical ones.
One advantage to real processes that can be observed over hypothetical processes is that by observing many different examples certain characteristics become clear. Swift violent floods leave a unique signature where in the recent past or the distant past and conclusions drawn based on the past observations have been born out in more recent events. The signature left by longer duration less violent floods is again clear and repeatable but quite different than the violent sudden floods.
Different rocks wear and weather and erode differently and those differences can be documented and used as reference markers to date past events. There is always the possibility that the basic laws of the universe got changed on a whim but in some way that is not evident to any of the folk looking for such signs and so far we have not found any examples happening recently.
Hypothetical processes like the Biblical Flood have the advantage of being able to do the impossible and do the impossible really often. Even the Bible stories themselves can't get what they do record straight and leave out all the really hard to miss stuff like volcanoes and mountains rising and continents splitting and oceans opening.
But one of the biggest problems with the Hypothetical Biblical Flood is that not of the nations that were in existence before the flood even noticed it or changed their cultures and traditions and new replacement cultures from Central Casting were written into the script.
You would think that Egypt and Mesopotamia that both experienced regular pretty catastrophic floods would have recorded The BIG One. Well, the Mesopotamians may have since they did write a somewhat similar flood story long before the Biblical ones were created. But Egypt never noticed and suffered almost no damage from the Big One.
Yet folk love a good yarn and seem to be able to make up a history to fit every fantasy and that's it's strength.
Hypothetical processes do not have to leave evidence.
hypothotical processes are usefull in making predictions.
Hypothetical processes are one of the essentials if science is to continue to advance. Way back in 2007 in a topic that asked How can Biologists believe in the ToE? I posted an example of a hypothetical.
quote:I found it interesting that you brought up the Periodic Table, because it is a classic example of how science does work and why the Scientific Method (TOE) is far more likely to be right than ID or Biblical Creationism.
The important thing about Mendeleev's Table was that it had gaps and reordered many of the placements of elements in earlier attempts at creating a table. He took another series of steps based on the reasoning behind his arrangement and predicted two things; that when the elements he reordered were examined with greater precision the then accepted atomic weights for those elements would be found to be wrong; and that elements would be found to fill in his blanks and even what the properties of each of those elements would be.
I cannot overstate the importance of those actions. He presented a model that explained what was already known, and was also useful for making predictions about what would be learned in the future. In addition, as more was learned we found that the new elements discovered were exactly as he predicted and that the atomic weights of those he rearranged were as he predicted.
His model explained what was seen as well as what would be discovered. It went even further and provided the basis for us to create NEW elements, ones not found on earth, with a high degree of confidence of what their properties would be even before we created them.
The Periodic Table is a great example of why the TOE is valuable and ID and Biblical Creationism are worthless.
The value of the TOE has been in helping us understand what is seen, but in also providing the basis for future discoveries. What we have learned from the TOE has let us make predictions, and so far those predictions have been born out by each new discovery.
ID and Biblical Creationism have no predictive potential. There is nothing there to form our basis. A good example is in ID. When based on the evidence seen in living things it is pointed out that the I in ID should stand for Inept or Incompetent or Inelegant or Inscrutable or Ignorant we are told that we cannot know the Intent of the Designer. Well sorry, if we cannot know the Intent of the Designer then we cannot predict what the Designer will do. If that is the case then the ID concept is worthless.
The same argument is applicable to Biblical Creationism. The two (actually they are really just one) schools of thought are simply worthless.
About 200 years ago science presented the hypotheses that the Flood caused all the geology we see in existence or at least part of it. Like Mendelev they produced a series of results that would have to be true to support the idea of a world-wide major flood.
Since it was a sort term event lasting only about one year it should leave a very clear relatively thin band that had every critter that lived all jumbled up together. Since it was a water driven event the layer had to be either marine or inland riverine/reparian in nature.
Unfortunately what they found didn't support any of the hypotheticals and so rightly, the hypothesis that there had been a Biblical Flood was abandoned.
To see how modern surface become layers buried under ground we can look at modern history.
Visit any archeological dig and you will see folk carefully document depths and soils and objects found because as they go deeper that are looking at older and older surfaces; surfaces that got buried under newer top layers.
But how do they know that they were the surface in the past? By what they find, campfires and floors and walls and clothing and pottery and all the things folk use every day. Fortunately many of the objects can be positively dated as being made and used during a specific period.
Also, since 4-5000 years ago was really recent, we are still dealing with just dirt. And looking at all the archeological sites going back at least 4-5000 years there is no sign of a world-wide flood.
If the Stone Age is from before the Biblical Flood; why are all the Stone Age settlements found within a few meters of the current surface? Any layers put down by the Biblical Flood must be found above the Stone Age settlements.